From a tragic death comes a message of tolerance and inclusion.
Rachel Joy Scott was the first victim in the Columbine High School shooting in Columbine, Colo., in 1999. Rachel's Challenge, a nationwide program, is based on the writings in her journals, which speak against bullying by advocating inclusion.
A Rachel's Challenge event to be held by the Fort Dodge Community School District Wednesday invites the public to hear this message.
"The event on Wednesday evening is open to the public," Jennifer Lane, FDCSD director of communications, said. "We're inviting parents, grandparents, anyone in the community who's interested in learning about the anti-bullying inclusion message, to come and hear what Rachel's Challenge has to present to us."
Those attending will hear Scott's story and writings.
"She was well-known for reaching out to others that were different, maybe didn't have a lot of friends, were new to her school, and making them feel included. That's the message of the event," Lane said. "The presentation will talk about Rachel, her theories on how people can treat each other with compassion and kindness and have that truly make a difference in somebody else's life."
Rachel's Challenge already participated in professional development with FDCSD and St. Edmond Catholic Schools.
"It was very well received," Lane said. "The gentleman that came from Rachel's Challenge really worked them through figuring out what is bullying, and coming to kind of a consensus of a definition of that, how you recognize it, how you help students deal with it, whether they're the target of it or they're the ones exhibiting the bullying behavior. Very well received, and I think our staff are even more excited now for next week than they were before."
Monday through Wednesday, Fort Dodge students will next participate in Rachel's Challenge.
"All of our students and St. Edmond students will go through assemblies that are age-appropriate for elementary, middle and high school to hear the message of Rachel's Challenge," Lane said.
"Then we'll also have approximately 100 middle school and high school students that will go through some training with Rachel's Challenge as well. Those students can then talk about and figure out how to maintain that Rachel's Challenge message once next week is over, how you keep that momentum and change occurring," she said.
Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, welcomes Rachel's Challenge.
"I think that it is an excellent opportunity for our staff and our students to hear a very good message about how we should be treating one another, and using Rachel's story is a great way to have a role model and example to get that across," he said. "Our experience already was very positive. Staff members really got a message out of it."
Van Zyl encourages everyone in the community to attend the event.
"We're really looking at not only our schools as being a focal point. We helped spearhead this, but really it's about the whole community," he said. "We want our students to have good role models not only in our schools but in their lives, in the real world."
The Rachel's Challenge community event is free, and will be held Wednesday, 7 p.m., at Fort Dodge Senior High.